The Senate chamber on Parliament Hill is seen on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The Senate chamber on Parliament Hill is seen on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canadian citizenship oath could help newcomers learn more about Indigenous people

Canada poised to amend the Citizenship Act to update the oath in line with TRC recommendations

Sharon Nyangweso says she first heard of Indigenous people in Canada when she was eight years old. Her family had just moved to Canada for her mother’s job at the Kenya High Commission in Ottawa. At one of the gatherings, a guest approached her mom upon learning they just arrived in the city.

What happened next stuck with Nyangweso.

The person told her mom to avoid Rideau Street because Indigenous people were there and “they were always drunk.” This memory unsettles her to this day, because the comment came not from a naturalized Canadian, but from someone in her own circle.

“That came from another immigrant,” she said in a telephone interview Thursday. “Not just another immigrant, but one that had intimate knowledge of what it meant to be part of a colonized nation.”

Nyangweso said there’s a wide gap when it comes to dissemination of information to immigrants about Indigenous Peoples and cultures in Canada. One that, she said, causes the perpetuation of misconceptions resulting from the country’s history of colonialism.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which examined the history and legacy of residential schools in Canada, issued 94 recommendations, or calls to action.

Numbers 93 and 94 urged the federal government to update the Canadian citizenship guide and test, as well as the oath, to reflect a more inclusive history of Indigenous Peoples and a recognition of their treaties and rights. This way, newcomers and immigrants to Canada would have a more thorough understanding about First Nations, Métis and Inuit, as well as their cultures.

On Thursday, the House of Commons passed Bill C-8 after unanimously agreeing earlier in the week to fast-track it. The bill, which must still be passed by the Senate, would amend the Citizenship Act to update the oath in line with what the TRC recommended.

The new oath would read: “I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

At a committee meeting Wednesday, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino thanked all members of Parliament for supporting the passage of the bill, saying he looks forward to working with colleagues in the Senate to ensure it becomes law.

His press secretary, Alexander Cohen, said: “Reconciliation is a whole-of-government initiative.”

Cohen also said the Liberal government is still revamping the content of the new citizenship guide to make it more inclusive. The new guide will have 10 chapters and will paint a diverse image of Canada. It will include stories of Black Canadians, LGBTQ Canadians, francophones and Canadians with disabilities. It will also have a chapter on residential school. There’s still no schedule as to when the updated guide will be released.

Matthew Norris, board president of the Urban Native Youth Association in Vancouver, said recent immigrants to Canada are in a good position to be allies to Indigenous people.

“I think newcomers to Canada have a role to play to understand where the society has come, where to go, and to be voices of support for Indigenous people, as we’re constantly trying to fight for our rights,” said Norris.

Norris said he encourages people and stakeholders to also look at other TRC calls to action, particularly regarding the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Bill C-15, which deals with that, is currently before the Senate.

Stronger calls to recommit to the project of reconciliation have emerged after Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced last week that ground-penetrating radar located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children in an unmarked burial site on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

Over more than a century, some 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forcibly sent to government-funded, church-operated schools, where many suffered abuse and even death.

“We talk about Indigenous history but it’s also the Indigenous presence,” Norris said. “Residential schools weren’t that long ago. It’s affected our family members. It’s affected younger generations. Intergenerational trauma is continuing to rear its ugly head throughout our lives.”

Nyangweso, who just took her citizenship test recently, said adequate information about Indigenous lands, peoples and cultures will help newcomers and immigrants to better engage in civic processes and become better allies for Indigenous rights.

She added she hopes teaching newcomers about Indigenous people and cultures should not just start and end with the citizenship guide or the oath.

She said good information, that’s accessible outside of the citizenship guide, will equip immigrants and new Canadians to be more respectful inhabitants on Indigenous lands.

—Arvin Joaquin, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Watchdog says immigration applicants need easier access to info on their files

RELATED: Retaking language test unfair during COVID-19: applicants to new residency pathway

ImmigrationIndigenous

Just Posted

Storm clouds gathered in Mulhurst, Alta., just before noon June 15, 2021. Photo/ Dan Moster.
Areas of County of Wetaskiwin remain under severe thunderstorm watch

Environment Canada has issued a severe thunderstorm watch for areas of the County.

Maskwacis Pride crosswalk (Left to right): Montana First Nation Councillor Reggie Rabbit, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Louise Omeasoo, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Shannon Buffalo, Samson Cree Nation Chief Vern Saddleback.
Pride in Maskwacis

The 4th inaugural Maskwacis Pride crosswalk painting took place on Saturday June 12th, 2021

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer COVID cases continue to fall

114 cases in Red Deer, down one from Saturday

Manluk Centre/ Impress
Manluk Centre re-opens to the public

Drop in and registered programs will be available; one-third facility capacity to be followed.

File photo
Leduc RCMP request assistance to identify armed robbery suspect

Leduc RCMP are looking for male responsible for an armed robbery at Super Car and RV Wash in Leduc.

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

A health-care worker holds up a sign signalling she needs more COVID-19 vaccines at the ‘hockey hub’ mass vaccination facility at the CAA Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. This NHL-sized hockey rink is one of CanadaÕs largest vaccination centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘Vaxxed to the max’: Feds launch Ask an Expert campaign to encourage COVID shots

Survey shows that confidence in vaccines has risen this spring

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read